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Thematic Data Science Labs Program

Link to pdf of full Request for Proposals

Program Aims

The Texas A&M Institute of Data Science (TAMIDS) solicits proposals to establish Labs operating under the auspices of TAMIDS in emerging areas of Data Science (DS), here understood as including the foundations and applications of the associated fields of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The mission of each Lab will be to develop knowledge, resources, and community around a thematic area of DS, encompassing research, education, and outreach. TAMIDS will support each Lab through a combination of seed funding for new research, effort from TAMIDS personnel, preferred access to existing TAMIDS programs, and organizational and logistical support.

Lab Activities: Each Lab will be initially focused around members who are Texas A&M investigators working coherently in the thematic area. The members of the Lab are expected to coordinate to: (i) conduct collaborative pilot research projects in the thematic area; (ii) develop training, tutorials, case studies and for-credit courses; (iii) establish data resources for use in research and education; (iv) organize workshops and seminar series; (v) recruit additional members through outreach to other investigators within their theme, in cognate disciplines, or in related application domains; (vi) involve students in Lab research and education activities; (vii) develop proposals for funding based on the work of the Lab. In short, the Labs program aims to build an ecosystem for Data Science around each thematic area that will make Texas A&M more competitive for external research funding.

Structure and Support of Thematic Data Science Labs

Lab Personnel: Each lab will be organized as follows:

  • Initial Members: up to 8 eligible Texas A&M members (see below for definition), with faculty members adloc’ed in at least 2 different colleges. The Lab is encouraged to recruit further members during its operation. 
  • Leader:  an initial member who coordinate(s) Lab activities. One or more additional associate leaders may also be identified.
  • Postdoc: TAMIDS-funded postdoc who collaborates with Lab members (see below).
  • TAMIDS Staff: TAMIDS staff (in addition to the postdoc) may be involved in the Lab operation.

Lab Support: Each Lab will receive the following support from TAMIDS during each of its first two years of operation

  • Leadership: $10k support for leader, or split with associate leaders, which may be used to support salary.
  • Research: $20k towards each of two collaborative pilot research projects. Each project must involve at least two initial members from different departments and must pilot new research. The funds must be used for graduate student or postdoc support. 
  • TAMIDS Postdoc: a full-time postdoctoral researcher employed by TAMIDS to collaborate with initial Lab members. The Lab leader(s) may nominate the postdoc. The duties of the postdoc will be set by the Lab leader(s), in consultation with the TAMIDS director. 
  • Outreach and Community: $5k for community building activities, such as a seminar series. 
  • Programmatic Support: additional support is available for Lab members through TAMIDS programs:
    • DS Course Development Program: develop new or adapt existing DS courses; supported by research bursary payable to developer’s a/c. 
    • DS Tutorial Workshop Program: develop and deliver 2-3 hour tutorials covering methods, tools, data, or hands-on case-studies; supported by a research bursary payable to developer’s a/c.
    • DS Workshop Program:  Thematic workshop, half or full day, with TAMIDS supporting speaker expenses, and providing facilities if held in person.
    • DS Traineeship Program: assistance on DS project development with assistance from TAMIDS for student engagement and mentorship; support available for a student worker. 
    • Logistical Support: Labs may use TAMIDS facilities for events and collaboration, and avail of TAMIDS administrative assistance as agreed with the TAMIDS Director.

Labs Community: during each year of funding, the Lab should extend its community through the following:

  • Workshop: hold a thematic workshop supported by TAMIDS under its Workshop Grant Program. The workshop agenda might include: progress reports on pilot projects, other contributions from members or external speakers, planning discussions for the Labs program. 
  • Seminar: organize a seminar program of monthly talks relating to its theme.
  • Communications: operate a segment of the TAMIDS website, a discussion group, or other social media to provide community focus for the Lab. 

Sustaining Support, Review and Reporting:

  • Additional Funding: the Lab leader(s) should work with TAMIDS to submit proposals to internal and external funding opportunities.
  • Sustaining TAMIDS Support: The TAMIDS Lab postdoc should be included on all research proposals arising from the work that they perform for the Lab that are submitted while the Lab receives support and receive commensurate salary support if awarded.
  • Reporting: The Lab leader(s) will deliver a Lab progress report each year at the thematic workshop event, and a final written report within 6 months of the end of the support period. 
  • Review: at the end of the first year TAMIDS and the Lab leader(s) will review and assess Lab outcomes and program effectiveness and make adjustments as needed.
  • Continuing Support: TAMIDS may continue to support a Lab beyond the initial two-year period depending on outcomes from Labs activities. 
  • Operating Agreement: If awarded, the proposal, incorporating feedback from the TAMIDS review, will serve as the roadmap for operations and activities of the Lab.
  • Co-sponsorship: Labs may be co-sponsored by other Texas A&M organizations that contribute significant resources to the Lab at its initiation or during its operation.

Proposing a Thematic Data Science Lab

The process to propose a Lab entails three steps: Letter of Intent, Pre-submission Events, and Full Proposal.

  • Letter of Intent: A prospective Lab leader should submit a 2-page LoI in the format described below. Each LoI will be assessed for conformance to and expected fulfillment of program goals. Only LoI’s selected by TAMIDS can proceed to full proposals.
  • Pre-submission Events: at least three community events should be held prior to submission of the full proposal. These events should demonstrate: (i) coherence in the Lab theme of the research programs of the initial members; (ii) interest in the theme by investigators beyond the initial team; (iii) discussion or identification of educational and outreach activities that would be needed to promote the thematic area. 
    • One of these events should be a thematic workshop of at least a half-day duration. The workshop can be held in person or online and must be advertised and open to all eligible members of Texas A&M (see below for definition). TAMIDS can provide support for the pre-submission workshop of selected LoI’s under its Workshop Grant Program.
    • Other events such as RIG or planning meetings should have a combined duration of at least 4 hours. 
    • Participants, discussion & outcomes from the events should be documented for inclusion in the full proposal.
  • Full Proposal: The Lab leader(s) should develop a full proposal in the format described below that sets out the specific Lab activities. Proposed Lab leaders are encouraged to discuss their proposal with the TAMIDS director, and Directors of current thematic Labs (see Q&A below). The proposal will be reviewed by a committee established by TAMIDS.

Eligibility: initial lab members must be PI-eligible members of Texas A&M University (including Galveston and Qatar campuses), TEES, TEEX, AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, or TTI.

Limitations: No individual can be a team member on more that one LoI or Full Proposal for this call. A proposal leader cannot have a leadership role (Director, Co-Director, or Associate Director) in an existing Thematic Lab. A proposal lead or associate lead cannot be the Director of an existing Thematic Lab.

Further Details and Application Procedures

The submission procedure and proposal format is detailed in the full RFP

Deadlines

  • Letter of Intent. Submission: February 14, 2022, 11:59pm. Notification:  March 7, 2022.
  • Full Proposal. Submission: July 11, 2022, 11:59pm.  Notification: August 15, 2022. 

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